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Is it possible to remain neutral when a friends' marriage breaks down?

(14 Posts)
freddiefrog Tue 23-Apr-13 10:15:55

Just after Christmas some friends of ours announced they were splitting up.

We first met them when we moved to the area 11 years ago so have only ever known them as a couple, neither of them was our friend first if you see what I mean, we see both of them as our friends equally so have tried really hard to remain neutral and there for both of them.

The ExH has taken it really badly - ExW instigated the split as she simply doesn't love him anymore and was very unhappy. ExH was taken completely by surprise. As were we all to be honest, they seemed so happy together

They're currently still living together, albeit in separate rooms, while they're waiting for their house sale to go through and things between them have turned really nasty and they're tearing each other apart, and we feel more and more under pressure from them to take sides.

They're both really lovely people and very good friends and we don't want to take sides and get involved with the nastiness.

ExW seems to feel that I should be on her side (I'm probably closer to her) and ExH seems to think DH should be on his side (DH is probably closer to him) and its just so difficult.

Is it possible to remain neutral and support both of them fully? I'm beginning to feel a bit like I'm stuck in the middle of WW3.

LemonDrizzled Tue 23-Apr-13 10:25:48

This happened to me when I left my XH. My H only had two friends and F1's wife felt torn as she was expected to welcome him and his new GF and socialise with them. I have had to cool our friendship as it was causing her discomfort. Luckily I have lots of friends smile

Just be straightforward with your friend and tell her how uncomfortable you are. Ask for no badmouthing or ranting. You may not be able to stay close to them both.

It is always sad when this happens. But fast forward a year or two and things will be easier

ipswitch Tue 23-Apr-13 10:34:52

I think it will be very hard to remain neutral and retain both their friendships without damaging your own relationship, especially if you are feeling pulled one way and the other.

Sad when friends break up. IMO likely that your relationship with them both will alter significantly too. This may mean that you are drawn more to one side than the other in trying to support them both. Never really been very satisfactory in my experience. The way I look at it, their relationship breakup does create waves , intentional or unintentional. Just a sad situation and its their problem to resolve and move on. If your friendship is meant to last it will.

freddiefrog Tue 23-Apr-13 10:53:57

Thank you!

If in entirely honest, and I know it sounds awful of me, but I probably feel more on the ExH's side. He's a lovely man and is utterly devastated and beyond confused as to what he's done wrong, and feels like his whole life has been ripped apart. He's really struggling

But at the same time, I know ExW isn't getting much support, her family and friends don't really understand it so are a bit "you've made your bed, so you must lie in it" with her, so I feel torn.

I just don't want to be used as a go between, at the weekend we were at a village event, DH and I went with our kids and the ExH was there with theirs. I saw her yesterday and she just wanted me to report back on how ExH was with the kids, whether he looked after them properly, made sure they had adequate suncream, etc, and I'm not prepared to do that

We've been very blunt with both of them, we're not prepared to get involved with point scoring and bitching but increasingly, it seems to be expected

Maybe we need to take a step back from both of them for a while

annh Tue 23-Apr-13 11:00:57

Could you write to them, only one letter sent from your AND your dh to both of them together, and say that you care for BOTH of them and while they have their problems to work out, it is unfair of them to try and split you and your dh apart over who is going to be friends with whom. Make it clear that you will not be reporting back on anything other than facts e.g. if you see the husband somewhere with the kids you will mention that but will not be commenting on how anyone looked, was wearing, suncream application etc. You want to remain friends but they have to make that actually possible for you. Let them decide how they want to handle it from there.

poozlepants Tue 23-Apr-13 11:09:47

You can stay neutral but in effect doing this you may lose both friends either temporarily or permanently. IME of friends divorces the feeling of being in the right in a messy divorce is so visceral that anyone who is not completely on their side is against them. Which is understandableas it is traumatic and stressful. At this point they want people to listen to them railing against their ex partner and agree with them. Logic and measured responses aren't regarded as helpful to them in the initial period at least.
You can provide a listening ear and their anger may subside and normality may resume. Depends how reasonable they are in the long run. Some people find it difficult to move on and even knowing that you see the other person socially makes them angry. They may choose for you.

CogitoErgoSometimes Tue 23-Apr-13 11:42:53

Draw the line at reporting back. Tell them both from the outset that you're sorry about the split, would like to remain friends but can't take sides or get involved in any of this silly go-between business.

yellowhousewithareddoor Tue 23-Apr-13 11:50:54

Depends how close the friendship is going to be. I know when I was divorced I really needed friends I could sob to, go over it again and again, support etc and help to rebuild life. I just couldn't have done that at that stage in life if they were also supporting my ex husband. It just wouldn't have been possible.

Very sadly our friends did end up going one way or the other and I now miss some of "his" friends, but they were his friends before. Mostly I miss his parents who really supported me when I was at university, however continuing that relationship wouldn't have been appropriate (no children).

I have a friend who is going through a divorce and there are a couple of our mutual friends who are remaining "neutral" but there isn't really a neutral in divorce. I can see both "sides" but my duty is to my friend to support her.

I can see when you're friends as a couple its much much harder, you will either have to pick a friend to support together, or make it clear you are staying "neutral" and remain a distant friend to them both.

lemonstartree Tue 23-Apr-13 13:25:56

I sadly lost friends when I divorced. It was 'his' fault - drug addict alcoholic and physically abusive to kids. But some friends thought I should have 'given ' him more in the divorce settlement - i couldn't get over their attitude and they couldn't get over mine...

freddiefrog Tue 23-Apr-13 14:11:55

Thanks

Maybe we need to step back a bit.

I don't mind a bit of ear bending, and offering practical support, but I don't want to get drawn into point scoring and reporting back. They both know this, but I guess right now, understandably, neither are being particularly reasonable.

When they first separated it was fairly amicable, but as the house sale has dragged on it's turned nasty.

Leavenheath Tue 23-Apr-13 14:34:07

If the exH was taken completely by surprise and close friends were too, I should think there's an OM in the picture.

Friend probably won't tell you that in case it gets back to her exH and because you might judge her.

Best to draw very clear boundaries and give their kids some support if you can.

Dahlen Tue 23-Apr-13 14:57:47

I'd agree with stepping back.

I had a divorce that was about as amicable as you could get. There was no bad-mouthing of each other to mutual friends. However, when you're going through one of the most significant events in your life, you turn to your friends to talk about it. It would be impossible for them not to talk about the break up and the issues involved.

If they are incapable of doing that without slagging off each other, the fault lies with them. If it's simply because it's too uncomfortable for you then the limitation is with you, although it's a perfectly understandable one.

You may find, once the dust has settled a little and they've both moved on, that you can continue the friendship with each of them on an individual basis.

Just tell them that until emotions have died down you feel the need to have a little distance because you don't like seeing either one of them hurting and it's too difficult to offer support to both of them at the same time.

freddiefrog Tue 23-Apr-13 20:07:13

Thanks!

I had a chat with her earlier and explained to her how difficult I was finding their expectations for us to take sides.

I said I was more than happy to help out with the kids, and give her a hand with practical stuff and didn't mind a bit of ear bending and anything she ever told me wouldn't go any further, but I wouldn't be taking sides and I didn't want to be drawn into reporting back and point scoring and that I totally understood if she felt she had to step back from us if us seeing her ExH was difficult for her.

DH is seeing ExH tonight and will have the same conversation so we've put the ball in to their courts and we'll take their lead.

Tbh, I did wonder if there was an OM, it's totally out of the blue, and while none of us ever knew what went on in their marriage, they seemed so happy together. ExH is totally shocked and devastated and had no idea his ExW felt like this. She's not mentioned anything and I haven't asked

We'll see

Leavenheath Tue 23-Apr-13 20:48:42

I'd give it 3 months (or the house sale) before you're being asked to meet a man 'she's just started going out with' wink

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